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Hairnet

Existential Crisis

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I am in the midsts of an existential crisis and I don't know why. I tried talking about it with some people already, however I am now prepared to ask the whole of the board for advice on this matter because of how miserable I have become.

Essentially I have realized that I will die, that humanity will cease to exist and that the universe itself will likely under go heat death. This has brought great emotional turmoil as of late. Everything I do seems pointless and is cast with a grim shadow. Things that are pleasurable no longer are, and my normal value structure has seemed to disentrigrate. I am not sure why as only a week ago I was very positive and happy.

According to some psychological models, I lost my "anchor" when I realized that even the most advanced posthuman species will one day die. My anchor was the idea of "progress". However progress is a lie, because the universe does not favor llife permanently. One day all of that progress will end and there will just be particles.

I really don't know how I am supposed to deal with this. f you have experienced this I would like detailed informaiton on how you delt with it.

Edited by Hairnet

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My anchor was the idea of "progress".
By "anchor" it sounds like you're saying that the notion of progress seemed to make life worth living. Is that an accurate paraphrase?

It's nice to know that things will improve after one is dead. Still, why would this be anything more than a secondary motivator? That's the aspect I'd like to understand. Could you throw some light on this aspect?

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By "anchor" it sounds like you're saying that the notion of progress seemed to make life worth living. Is that an accurate paraphrase?

It's nice to know that things will improve after one is dead. Still, why would this be anything more than a secondary motivator? That's the aspect I'd like to understand. Could you throw some light on this aspect?

The way the term was used in the wikipedia article it seemed to be equivalent to a myth or narrative. Typical anchors are things like God, Reincarnation, or Communism.

http://en.wikipedia....stential_crisis

I suppose I took comfort in the idea that if I couldn't personally achieve immortality, I could in some way contribute to a something that would. Perhaps I, or future generations could achieve a technological singularity. I as a whole could never achieve a permament existence, but some part of me could join something that could. This would have been accomplished through science and technology.

http://en.wikipedia....cal_Singularity

http://en.wikipedia....iki/Immortality

http://en.wikipedia....i/Dyson_Spheres

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kardashev_scale

Edited by Hairnet

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I really don't know how I am supposed to deal with this. f you have experienced this I would like detailed informaiton on how you delt with it.

Well that makes two of us now.

Mine started in the fall of 2010.

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I had one last year on account of approaching 30. It hit me at an very inopportune time and I crashed and burned hard and flaked out at work in the midst of it. Even though the consequences were fairly destructive, 10 months later, I'm good, and I'm better off for having processed those issues.

Edited by happiness

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I used to know somebody who went through this same freak out. I think that person ultimately settled into evasion and now just tries to deny that humanity and its descendants may ever completely cease to exist. Don't do that.

To address your concern the thread is about, why do you believe something needs to be permanent to be worth something, to be worthwhile? Is an ice cream cone not worth bothering with because it will be gone eventually? I do want you to actually try to answer this. ;)

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I suppose I took comfort in the idea that if I couldn't personally achieve immortality, I could in some way contribute to a something that would. Perhaps I, or future generations could achieve a technological singularity. I as a whole could never achieve a permament existence, but some part of me could join something that could.
I think the emotion behind this is positive, because permanence is often a sign of value. For instance, when someone builds a building, if people are still enjoying it and finding it a great place to stay decades later, that might mean he really made a good building. So, the underlying intellectual evaluation -- something along the lines of "if this value lasts, it is good" -- is reasonable enough.

However, if you leave aside the emotion and consider the underlying intellectual evaluation, can you justify it as being one of the more important factors to consider, let alone a primary factor? What about someone who builds something that does not last: e.g. a cook who loves cooking and takes a great interest in improving ingredients and techniques; yet, the meals that are cooked are eaten soon after? What remains is the memory in the minds of the diners. And, then they die... and the cook is forgotten. Does that somehow devalue the cook's life, from the cook's own perspective?

Now, perhaps the cook can found his own restaurant and write a cook-book and achieve a longer-running "presence" that way. One can empathize with the emotion that might motivate such actions, but does this mean these are things the cook ought to do? If the cook does not like everything that comes with running a business, and does not enjoy writing, and really enjoys spending time cooking, should he still choose permanence? If so, by what standard?

Edited by softwareNerd

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Essentially I have realized that I will die, that humanity will cease to exist and that the universe itself will likely under go heat death.

WHAT???

How come no one told me about this?!?

Holy Freakin' Crap... This changes everything.

Add me to the list of those experiencing an "existential crisis."

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Have you been watching too much Dr. Who?

Anyway, the human species doesn't need to be any of your concern, as such. Right now, you may want it to thrive so you can benefit, but beyond your children's lives, no generation really needs to matter to you. And if one day, all human progress ends, you won't be around to be sad about it, so it doesn't really matter.

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I think the emotion behind this is positive, because permanence is often a sign of value. For instance, when someone builds a building, if people are still enjoying it and finding it a great place to stay decades later, that might mean he really made a good building. So, the underlying intellectual evaluation -- something along the lines of "if this value lasts, it is good" -- is reasonable enough.

However, if you leave aside the emotion and consider the underlying intellectual evaluation, can you justify it as being one of the more important factors to consider, let alone a primary factor? What about someone who builds something that does not last: e.g. a cook who loves cooking and takes a great interest in improving ingredients and techniques; yet, the meals that are cooked are eaten soon after? What remains is the memory in the minds of the diners. And, then they die... and the cook is forgotten. Does that somehow devalue the cook's life, from the cook's own perspective?

Now, perhaps the cook can found his own restaurant and write a cook-book and achieve a longer-running "presence" that way. One can empathize with the emotion that might motivate such actions, but does this mean these are things the cook ought to do? If the cook does not like everything that comes with running a business, and does not enjoy writing, and really enjoys spending time cooking, should he still choose permanence? If so, by what standard?

Everything is impermanent, and this can't be changed . Values exist to promote life. Life however seems to be futile in that it will end no matter how succesful an organism is, entropy wins. This makes values seem futile.

What is the primary factor?

WHAT???

How come no one told me about this?!?

Holy Freakin' Crap... This changes everything.

Add me to the list of those experiencing an "existential crisis."

Please don't post anymore. That was an extremely rude and ingnorant statement. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. IEveryone knows about death, that isn't the point of this thread at all. This thread is about evaluating life in the face of impermanence

Edited by Hairnet

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Hairnet, do you realise that there, in a nutshell, is the entire reason for rational egoism?

Not for the good times (only) but for the roller-coaster ride over a full lifetime?

I'm not coming down on you, since I believe I've experienced similar.

Maybe, we get too casual. Don't always concentrate our senses, and so lose perception of every little thing around. Then as a result our concepts could become to seem fragile and insignificant. Maybe we get caught in that difficault place between having a lot of knowledge, seeing clearly what's going on, and not yet knowing or seeing enough. Maybe, against the background of existence, our lives look puny, at times. "There is an enormous breach of continuity between nature and man's consciousness", Rand wrote.

I think that each person has to bridge that breach for him/herself by acquired virtues and rational egoism.

There is no 'purpose' for one's life, except the purpose one finds (as you know.) Nothing was 'meant to be', until you give it meaning.

Life is very, very long if lived in focus - long enough, actually. Whoever lived previously and whoever comes after us is not our fundamental concern, and must not be - apart from a mental hat-tip of respect and acknowledgment. You are here, now, and can choose.

I've been thinking about what I saw Helen Keller said: "Life is either a daring adventure

or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in reality."

Realising it came from someone deaf and blind gave me perpective. Hope it does you.

Edited by whYNOT

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Hairnet, A friend of mine posted the following to FB. I thought it would make a good counter-point to the idea that we ought to live for some purpose higher than our own limited lives. How would you answer this?

I think one of the ugliest things about the generally accepted altruist morality is that it teaches you to devalue and dismiss all the wonderful little things in life, like cooking a tasty meal, or playing a new video game, watching TV, or even just cleaning the house a bit, as if they were worthless, meaningless. If you can't look back and talk about your Nobel Prize or your cure for cancer, your life was unimportant and of no value. That's just wrong.

What's uglier still is when people who supposedly reject the altruist morality still go around criticizing people who like to play video games, cook tasty meals, watch TV, and clean the house as if their happiness somehow wasn't big or important enough to qualify for . . . something. They have this idea that the only "real" passions are these big showy public spectacle things.

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Hairnet,

Imagine that you know for a fact that you are going to die one week from now. Now imagine that you know for a fact that you will live for 1000 years.

Would you live life differently in either case?

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I am in the midsts of an existential crisis ....

Hairnet, I am no expert but it sounds as though you are depressed. This may by physical and not psychological, so you should ask a psychiatrist about it. A psychologist may refer you to one. If this is physical, it is not your fault and you need treatment right away.

If this is a philosophical crisis, you should know that your existence is sufficient justification for itself. Your goal should selfishly be your own happiness. What happens to the universe is not your concern.

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Hairnet, A friend of mine posted the following to FB. I thought it would make a good counter-point to the idea that we ought to live for some purpose higher than our own limited lives. How would you answer this?

That is a strong counterpoint for sure. However I fear that I wouldn't be taking life seriously if I just took pleasure in the little things though. I figure that I am supposed to have some personal purpose in life and that I must work towards that.

@ New Buddha

Yes I would live differently.

@aleph_1

Until about a week ago I was pretty damn happy.

There was a reason I posted this in the psychology forum, I understand that I am not being completely rational, and that these emotions and thoughts do not represent my long term views. I am not sure if I am depressed in the clinical sense. I also really can't afford a therapist right now.

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There was a reason I posted this in the psychology forum, I understand that I am not being completely rational, and that these emotions and thoughts do not represent my long term views. I am not sure if I am depressed in the clinical sense. I also really can't afford a therapist right now.

If you think you may be experiencing depression it could be SAD given the timing.

Here are the criteria

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/seasonalaffectivedisorder.html

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I know there's other threads about 'the meaning of life' but I can't seem to find the good ones at the moment. I think the best answer is this: "One question to ask... of meaning to whom? Certainly your life will more than likely have no meaning to people a couple of centuries down the road.. but the question is how to make one's life meaningful to one's self." -Steve: http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=22563

I suppose I took comfort in the idea that if I couldn't personally achieve immortality, I could in some way contribute to a something that would. Perhaps I, or future generations could achieve a technological singularity. I as a whole could never achieve a permament existence, but some part of me could join something that could. This would have been accomplished through science and technology.

Everyone wants to think they're so important. And it's true, they are important: to themselves and those that care about them. Who else do you want to be important to? Everyone else in the country? The world? The universe?

I like to think that my heroes didn't focus on how they would be remembered after they were gone. I like to think they focused on how they could better themselves and the world while they were alive. Because really, that's all we have control over.. what happens after we die is out of our hands.

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Obviously not an Objectivist, but a favorite thinker nonetheless

"Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present."

- Marcus Aurelius

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I realize this is in the psychology forum, so if you wish to focus on that, and not on the philosophical rationale of purpose etc., please stop me.

That is a strong counterpoint for sure. However I fear that I wouldn't be taking life seriously if I just took pleasure in the little things though. I figure that I am supposed to have some personal purpose in life and that I must work towards that.
My question to that would be: why do you have to take life seriously? why do you need to have a purpose? what end do they serve?

Speaking through Galt's speech, Rand says:

The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live"
If this is true, how do seriousness and purpose serve that end: i.e. happiness?

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However I fear that I wouldn't be taking life seriously if I just took pleasure in the little things though. I figure that I am supposed to have some personal purpose in life and that I must work towards that.

What are the criteria of what are little things and what are not little things?

(Just to make sure here, I have not intended to be sarcastic in either of my posts. I believe getting your thoughts more thoroughly explored and written out on this issue where you and the rest of us can see them could be very helpful, so I'm asking with interest in your exact thoughts right now, not trying to make statements that are merely written in the form of questions.)

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Essentially I have realized that I will die, that humanity will cease to exist and that the universe itself will likely under go heat death. This has brought great emotional turmoil as of late. Everything I do seems pointless and is cast with a grim shadow. Things that are pleasurable no longer are, and my normal value structure has seemed to disentrigrate. I am not sure why as only a week ago I was very positive and happy.

The suddenness of onset and feelings of pointlessness make me suspect that what you are feeling is physical, not psychological. I do not think that it is possible to approach this rationally.

However, let me say this. The thermal death of the universe is a myth. We do not know the fate of the universe. Perhaps with enough expansion of the universe the rate that time flows will slow, being (hypothetically) mediated through particle interactions. Perhaps singular events not governed by present theories will occur. Who knows? We have today and that's enough. Eat, drink and be merry!

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I realize this is in the psychology forum, so if you wish to focus on that, and not on the philosophical rationale of purpose etc., please stop me.

My question to that would be: why do you have to take life seriously? why do you need to have a purpose? what end do they serve?

Speaking through Galt's speech, Rand says: If this is true, how do seriousness and purpose serve that end: i.e. happiness?

I don't know how to articulate this, so I will just ask this: What is the difference between Buddhism and Objectivism? The kind of attitude you are advocating sounds a lot like things I have read in Taoist and Buddhist texts. Which is fine if it is true, but I was under the impression that wasn't the correct way.

I feel as though I need purpose so that I do not feel regret, guilt, shame, and despair.

What are the criteria of what are little things and what are not little things?

(Just to make sure here, I have not intended to be sarcastic in either of my posts. I believe getting your thoughts more thoroughly explored and written out on this issue where you and the rest of us can see them could be very helpful, so I'm asking with interest in your exact thoughts right now, not trying to make statements that are merely written in the form of questions.)

I didn't think you were being sarcastic.

Little things count as the every day pleasures. Those things give you pleasure, which is good, but they won't give you happiness. I suspect that I have been too comfortable lately, and have indulged to much in pleasures while not working towards long term goals.

The suddenness of onset and feelings of pointlessness make me suspect that what you are feeling is physical, not psychological. I do not think that it is possible to approach this rationally.

However, let me say this. The thermal death of the universe is a myth. We do not know the fate of the universe. Perhaps with enough expansion of the universe the rate that time flows will slow, being (hypothetically) mediated through particle interactions. Perhaps singular events not governed by present theories will occur. Who knows? We have today and that's enough. Eat, drink and be merry!

I have taken this idea seriously and have decided to take more time out in the sun and in places with lots of light.

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I am in the midsts of an existential crisis and I don't know why. I tried talking about it with some people already, however I am now prepared to ask the whole of the board for advice on this matter because of how miserable I have become.

Essentially I have realized that I will die, that humanity will cease to exist and that the universe itself will likely under go heat death. This has brought great emotional turmoil as of late. Everything I do seems pointless and is cast with a grim shadow. Things that are pleasurable no longer are, and my normal value structure has seemed to disentrigrate. I am not sure why as only a week ago I was very positive and happy.

According to some psychological models, I lost my "anchor" when I realized that even the most advanced posthuman species will one day die. My anchor was the idea of "progress". However progress is a lie, because the universe does not favor llife permanently. One day all of that progress will end and there will just be particles.

I really don't know how I am supposed to deal with this. f you have experienced this I would like detailed informaiton on how you delt with it.

Concerning the longetivity of our species, first take ten minutes to listen to Carl Sagan: http://youtu.be/LDIo_SpFI60

If you're that terribly concerned with events that won't occur for billions (and billions!) of years, take some solace in the fact that, if we do become able to "soar through the lightyears", our descendants will have aquired knowledge about the universe that we cannot even begin to imagine to understand. Perhaps they will have the ability to jump from universe to universe, or dimension to dimension, or they will have mastered technology which actually prevents the end of the universe. Who can imagine? Who can know? Maybe we have it all wrong to begin with... maybe our understanding of the universe and its fate is as simplistic a view -- compared with what our far-flung descendants will understand -- as the ancient understanding that the Earth was flat. It makes perfect sense, until you know better.

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Little things count as the every day pleasures. Those things give you pleasure, which is good, but they won't give you happiness. I suspect that I have been too comfortable lately, and have indulged to much in pleasures while not working towards long term goals.

How long term does a goal need to be to count as a long term goal?

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I don't know how to articulate this, so I will just ask this: What is the difference between Buddhism and Objectivism?
Great question. Buddhism, Epicurean-ism, Hedonism and Objectivism do have a certain core similarity: they propound an essentially egoistic quest or (to use a modernism) "meta-goal". In a recent thread there was some discussion of thinking there was this order of egoism in Christianity as well. Of course, just putting oneself as the goal of morality is nowhere near enough. First, we have the issue of what that self is: is it just a soul that needs to be made good in some way? is it just a body that needs to enjoy itself in the moment? The underlying metaphysics gives different answers: is a soul in heaven the ultimate happiness? is unity with the oneness of the universe the whole point we we will relax? do we just have a moment at any point and nothing more? should we seek value or should we try to reduce our desires? One can see how a modern person can shrug off parts that he thinks are silly and superstitious, while keeping many of the better egoistic elements, and adding his own interpretations on that foundation, ending up being very happy while considering himself a Buddhist, or a Christian, etc. at core.

Now, loop back to purpose and long-term goals. We ought not accept these as "oughts", or like a stoic would, as something we just have to aim for, by the inexorable laws of the universe. Purpose and long-term goals can only be good if they serve your life in some way. So, my point was not to run down purpose. I think purpose is really important to human happiness; indeed, some level of purpose is critical. Still, it does not stand there as something we aim for for any reason outside ourselves or higher than ourselves.

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